Spiritual Guardrails




A cartoon by Mike Waters has made the rounds of social media recently.  It shows two men standing near a rail fence.  The fence is labeled, “God’s Commands.”  One of the men says, “I hate being confined by this fence.  I’m jumping over it.”  As he jumps over the fence, the other man yells, “Wait!  It’s not a fence, it’s a guardrail!”  In the final frame the jumper is seen going over a cliff.  Below the cartoon the words of Prov. 19:16 are written: “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of conduct will die.”

This cartoon perfectly illustrates the self-destructive nature of human beings.  We constantly chafe and grouse against any kind of restraints that are placed on us.  As children we willfully ignore the warnings and admonitions of our parents because we do not recognize that they are intended for our benefit and well-being.  As teen agers we buck against the rules because we think it’s cool to rebel against authority.  As adults we push the envelope in order to avoid compliance with rules that we dislike because we may think that they are unreasonable in some way.  The sad irony is that we often continue to rebel against such restraints even after suffering some kind of loss due to our lack of compliance.

In Jn. 8:31-32 Jesus told some believing Jews that they must continue in His word in order to truly be His disciples.  He promised them, however, that if they did so they would know the truth and the truth would make them free.  In 2 Jn. 9 John said, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.”  These two passages tell us that our spiritual guardrails are the word of Christ.  The purpose of these guardrails is to keep us from jumping off the cliff of sin.

If we remain within the confines of the teaching of Christ, we will not engage in the ungodly behaviors that will condemn us at judgment.  In so doing we will have a better life here on earth, as well as the promise of eternal life hereafter (1 Tim. 4:8). If we remain within our spiritual guardrails, we will have nothing to fear when we stand before the Lord at the end of time, as all of us must do (2 Cor. 5:10).

In Jas. 1:21 James said, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted which is able to save your souls.”  It is a simple choice.  We can abide within the restraints of God’s word or we can jump over our spiritual guardrails into the abyss of sin.  Those who jump the guardrail may seem to be enjoying themselves, but the scriptures teach that the pleasures of sin are fleeting (Heb. 11:25).

On the other hand, those who remain within our spiritual guardrails will find their names written in the Lamb’s book of life at judgment, and eternal life will be their reward.  If we are wise, we will recognize that our spiritual guardrails are there for our eternal benefit, and we will remain within them.

A Prayer for Our Nation



We are once again in the election cycle for the highest office in our land.  The airwaves are literally saturated with non-stop political ads and campaign coverage.  When we listen to the campaign rhetoric and consider the state of our nation today, it is clear that this is one of the most critical periods in our history.  Ungodly behavior that would have been publicly condemned in the past is now openly endorsed by prominent political leaders.  Graft and corruption are rampant in government and society, and millennials are generally adrift in a sea of self-absorption and the opiate of entitlement.

In addition to this, we are witnessing an unprecedented assault on the Christian principles upon which our nation was built.  Anyone who even remotely stands for Christian values is mocked and attacked by the media, by many judges, and even by some of our elected officials.  Those of Christian faith are being told that biblical truth about certain lifestyle choices is hate speech and will not be tolerated.  Lawsuits and imprisonment for the practice of Christian faith are becoming very real possibilities.

In troubling times such as these Christians must not stand idly by and let these things continue without voicing our concerns.  Neither must we unthinkingly lend our support to those who endorse or promote such ungodly things as are now commonplace.  Since we live in a nation where we may make our voices heard, we must speak up for the Lord, for His word, and for His church.  And, we must call upon our God to act on behalf of His people in order to preserve us from the wickedness that has engulfed our land, if it is His will.

So then, let us pray that we as a people will not neglect the leading of God’s word as we face the days ahead, and as we make our choices in the election cycle now upon us.  Let us remember the words of the wise man Solomon, who said, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34).  Let us pray that instead of putting up with the national disgrace of leaders who endorse and promote sinful behavior, we will seek out and support those who stand up for godly principles and behavior.  Let us pray that instead of being participants in ungodly behavior, we will repent of our sins and become a positive influence for others.

Likewise, let us pray that we will remember the warning of Isa. 5:20, which says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light, and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  Let us pray that we will cease making excuses for the evil that we do, and return to living as God has commanded us to do.  Let us also pray that our leaders will cease promoting lies about immoral conduct, and instead stand up for godliness.

Our nation has become a haven for those who endorse and practice ungodly behavior.  May God forgive us for allowing this to happen!  Our silence on these things has given our tacit approval to them.  May God forgive us for this sin!  May God grant us time to repent and to restore our land to its godly roots!  May God save us from the wickedness that surrounds us!

Who Loves Ya?



The late actor Telly Savannas played a lollipop-loving police detective in the television series, Kojak.  One of his signature lines in that role was, “Who loves ya, baby?”  This is a question that is important at any time, but is especially so on Valentine’s Day.  On days like this one many people profess their love for one another.  That expression may be in words or in deeds or in gifts, but the intent is to declare undying love for the object of one’s affection.

In the world these expressions may or may not be consistent with the daily actions of the one who makes them.  That is to say, a man or woman may say, “I love you,” to another, and shower that person with gifts on Valentine’s Day, but in the regular course of daily life their actions may say just the opposite.  Women are particularly sensitive to this inconsistency, and they are justified in being put off by it.  A woman wants her man to say, “I love you,” in the way he treats her every day of the year, not just on special occasions.  She wants him to say, “I love you,” with his lips, and with his actions.  If he does not, she knows in her heart that he really doesn’t love her.

What true love comes down to is consistently doing what is best and right for another in every circumstance of life.  It does indeed include saying the words “I love you,” but it also, and more importantly, includes what one does each and every day.  A young man may say the right words to woo a young lady, but if his words are only a pretense to lead her into ungodly behavior, they are a lie.  One who truly loves another will never do anything that would purposely hurt that person.  Neither will he lead that person into sin.  Anyone who does such things does not love.

This brings us to the most important answer to the question, “Who loves ya?”  As much as one may be loved by another here in life, there is one person who loves you more than anyone on earth is capable of doing.  That person is our Father in heaven.  He loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins (Jn. 3:16).  He planned this from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-14).  Everything He has done, from creation until this very day, has been for the purpose of demonstrating His love for us in very possible way.

Our Father in heaven shows us that He loves us by having provided this world in which we live (Gen. 1).  He shows His love by providing for our every physical need (Mt. 6:33).  And He shows His love by providing the only means by which we may be saved and spend eternity with Him in heaven (Rom. 5:8).  We know God loves us because of what He has done.  Therefore, as John says in 1 Jn. 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Let us follow our Father’s example and always demonstrate our love for one another in everything we do, and by doing everything we can to help each other go to heaven.  Truly, there is no greater love that we may show.

Do You Love Me?



After the Lord’s resurrection from the dead He appeared to the apostles and other disciples for a period of about forty days before He ascended back into heaven.  One of these appearances is recorded in Jn. 21.  On that occasion the Lord appeared to Peter, James, John, Thomas, Nathanael, and two other disciples after they had been fishing all night on the Sea of Galilee.  They had caught nothing, but the Lord directed them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat, whereupon they caught 153 large fish.  When they came to shore they found that the Lord had prepared breakfast for them.

After they had eaten breakfast, the Lord asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?”  In each case Peter responded that he did love the Lord, and in each case the Lord told Peter to care for His sheep.  We often make a point of the different words for love used by the Lord and by Peter.  Twice Jesus used a form of the Greek word agape, which is the highest form of love. Peter, on the other hand, used a form of the Greek word phileo, which is typically understood as brotherly love, or friendship.

The more important point, however, is the question itself.  Do we truly love Jesus?  We are happy to sing, “Oh, how I love Jesus,” and we sincerely mean it when we do.  But do our lives actually reflect the words we so joyfully sing?  Many will affirm that they do, but, like Peter, they may mean something other than what the Lord meant when He asked this question.  The concept of love has become so diluted in modern culture that it often means little more than a moment of passion.  How else can we explain people falling into and out of love so quickly?  Obviously our culture has moved far away from the kind of love the Lord expects of us.

The kind of love the Lord calls us to have is an act of the will that is not driven solely by emotion.  It is a choice we make to do what is best and right for all people in every circumstance of life.  This is how biblical love is demonstrated in our relationships with each other.  But how is this kind of love demonstrated toward our Lord?

The answer is surprisingly simple.  When the Lord asks if we love Him, He is asking if we are willing to obey Him.  In Jn. 14:15 the Lord told the apostles, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”  The beloved apostle John made this same point in 1 Jn. 5:2-3.  Here he said, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

This should not come as a surprise to us.  We express this same sentiment in our relationships with each other.  When someone says, “I love you,” but then does things that are hurtful, we know his profession of love is meaningless.  There is, perhaps, no greater pain than to be hurt by one who claims to love us.  If we feel this way about our human relationships, how much more so do our God and Father, and His Son Jesus Christ?

When we live our lives as though God’s commands are only suggestions, we are telling Him we don’t love Him.  When we twist and distort His commands to fit our own desires, we are telling Him we don’t love Him, just as surely as the person who makes no pretense of loving God.  When we ignore God’s commands, we hurt Him deeply because in so doing we are treading underfoot the precious sacrifice of His Son to redeem us from sin.  If we truly love Jesus, and if we truly love our Father in heaven, we will always do our best to obey all He has commanded us in His word.  When we do this, He will know that we do indeed love Him.